Facebook may have to change its 'real name' policy in Germany

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What's in a name? Transparency and authenticity, Facebook would say. But German regulators may force the company to change its "real name" policy.

Earlier this year, the Hamburg data protection agency ruled that Facebook shouldn't force people to use and verify their real names. Doing so conflicts with certain German laws, the government body argued.

Facebook has appealed the decision, saying that German courts have already ruled in its favor on the issue in the past.

"We're disappointed Facebook's authentic name policy is being revisited, since German courts have reviewed it on multiple occasions and regulators have determined it fully complies with applicable European data protection law," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

The company believes that using real names on the social network helps protect people's safety because there's no ambiguity about who's who.

Facebook also feels that the policy helps hold people accountable to their actions online, combat anonymous bullying, and makes it harder for criminals to commit fraud.

But over the past few years, the company has faced backlash on the rule from various groups of people who want control over their identities.

Domestic abuse victims, for example, say that using a fake name helps protect them from assailants.

LGBTQ groups and Native Americans have argued that the rule is discriminatory -- their chosen names may not always be verifiable in the ways that Facebook requires.

If Facebook loses its appeal in Germany, it's unclear what would happen next.

Facebook (FB), along with other large U.S. tech companies, are facing a host of privacy battles in Europe right now.

A new ruling from Europe's top court last week is a massive game-changer in European privacy cases against companies like Facebook. It gives national authorities much greater powers when it comes to privacy and data protection.

-- CNNMoney's Ivana Kottasova contributed to this report.

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